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Paradox of Productivity: How to Work Less and Get More Done

Refreshing escape

My mind spins and I have a hard time concentrating.

Then, my hand moves under the desk.

I pull my phone out of my pocket.

Without thinking I make a quick movement with my thumb.

Pulling down my inbox to refresh it.

I’m not expecting anything important, but my eyes are focused.

Full of excitement, like the time I unpacked a present on my 6th birthday.


New email.

A dull newsletter that I subscribed to five years ago.

Let’s have a read.

My eyes go through the words, but I have no idea what I’m reading.

I am just escaping from the tiredness.




My mind craving for distraction.




“Hey Gilbert!”

I blink my eyes and look up.

It feels like someone woke me up from a deep sleep.

Like a snap with the fingers to pull me out of my hypnosis.

A colleague stands in front of me.

After a quick talk he walks to his desk.

I smirk.

Shaking my head, I think: what am I doing?

I dunk my iPhone into my bag and say to myself: I need a break.

There is only one thing that I should be refreshing.

And it’s not my inbox.

The paradox of productivity

Often, when I want to get more done I keep on working.

Preparing a meeting while I’m bleary.

Cramming out five more emails when I’m drained.

Pushing myself to create a presentation when my creative juices are long gone.

More and more I see how this harms my productivity.

It’s time for a change of my perspective.

Resisting the temptation to keep my mind busy.

And to prioritize the art of doing nothing:

  • Gazing out of the window and letting my mind wander

  • Meeting with friends for a drink

  • Taking a walk outside and listen to Carlos Santana

  • Sleep for 10 hours

  • Watching an episode of La Casa de Papel

Doing nothing doesn’t produce any direct results.

But I truly belief they are crucial for my creativity.

There seems to be this paradox.

The more I make time for seemingly unproductive activities, the bigger the results that I produce each week.

Going from: shallow work, frustration and exhaustion. Lots of emails answered but no significant work done.

To: deep work, creativity and energy. Lots of free time for activities that reinvigorate my life.

Pushing Productivity

The Christmas time was perfect to charge my batteries.

Spending time with family.

Shifting focus.

In 2019 I will embrace the art of doing nothing.


Taking more breaks.

Doing a step back and see the bigger picture.

When I do work, I want to make it count.

Being focused and produce high-quality work.

Once my energy levels start dropping, I will make a quick movement.

Not to refresh my inbox,

But to get up and walk away from my productive activities.

Clearing my mind –

For a rejuvenated start.

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